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manner, and to higher purposes. Cleombrotus was so taken with this speculation, that, having learned from Plato's Phædon the soul's abode, he had not patience to stay nature's dull leisure, but leaped from a wall to his portion of immortality. And when Pomponius Atticus resolved to die by famine, to ease the great pains of his gout, in the abstinence of two days he found his foot at ease: but when he began to feel the pleasures of an approaching death, and the delicacies of that ease he was to inherit below, he would not withdraw his foot, but went on and finished his death and so did Cleanthes. And every wise man will despise the little evils of that state, which indeed is the daughter of fear, but the mother of rest, and peace, and felicity.
5. If God should say to us, Cast thyself into the sea (as Christ did to St. Peter, or as God concerning Jonas), I have provided for thee a dolphin, or a whale, or a port, a safety or a deliverance, security or a reward, were we not incredulous and pusillanimous persons, if we should tremble to put such a felicity into act, and ourselves into possession? The very duty of resignation and the love of our own interest are good antidotes against fear. In forty or fifty years we find evils enough, and arguments enough to make us weary of this life and to a good man there are very many more reasons to be afraid of life than death, this having in it less of evil and more of advantage. And it was a rare wish of that Roman", that death might come only to wise and excellent persons, and not to fools and cowards; that it might not be a sanctuary for the timorous, but the reward of the virtuous and indeed they only can make advantage of it.
6. Make no excuses to make thy desires of life seem reasonable; neither cover thy fear with pretences, but suppress it rather with arts of severity and ingenuity. Some are not willing to submit to God's sentence and arrest of death, till they have finished such a design, or made an end of the last paragraph of their book, or raised such portions for their children, or preached so many sermons, or built their house, or planted their orchard, or ordered their estate with such advantages. It is well for the modesty of these men, that
Mors, utinam pavidos vitâ subducere nolles,
Pendent opera interrupta, minæque Marorum ingentes.
the excuse is ready; but if it were not, it is certain they would search one out: for an idle man is never ready to die, and is glad of any excuse; and a busied man hath always something unfinished, and he is ready for every thing but death. And I remember, that Petronius brings in Eumolpus composing verses in a desperate storm; and being called upon to shift for himself when the ship dashed upon the rock, crying out to let him alone, till he had trimmed and finished his verse, which was lame in the hinder leg: the man either had too strong a desire to end his verse, or too great a desire not to end his life. But we must know, God's times are not to be measured by our circumstances; and what I value, God regards not: or if it be valuable in the accounts of men, yet God will supply it with other contingencies of his providence: and if Epaphroditus had died, when he had his great sickness St. Paul speaks of, God would have secured the work of the gospel without him; and he could have spared Epaphroditus as well as St. Stephen, and St. Peter as well as St. James. Say no more; but, when God calls, lay aside thy papers; and first dress thy soul, and then dress thy hearse.
Blindness is odious, and widowhood is sad, and destitution is without comfort, and persecution is full of trouble, and famine is intolerable, and tears are the sad ease of a sadder heart: but these are evils of our life, not of our death. For the dead that die in the Lord, are so far from wanting the commodities of this life, that they do not want life itself.
After all this, I do not say it is a sin to be afraid of death: we find the boldest spirit, that discourses of it with confidence, and dares undertake a danger as big as death, yet doth shrink at the horror of it, when it comes dressed in its proper circumstances. And Brutus, who was as bold a Roman to undertake a noble action as any was, since they first reckoned by consuls, yet when Furius came to cut his throat after his defeat by Anthony, he ran from it like a girl, and being admonished to die constantly, he swore by his life, that he would shortly endure death. But what do I speak of such imperfect persons? Our blessed Lord wa pleased to legitimate fear to us by his agony and prayers in the garden. It is not a sin to be afraid, but it is a great felicity to be without fear; which felicity our dearest Saviour
refused to have, because it was agreeable to his purposes to suffer any thing, that was contrary to felicity, every thing. but sin. But when men will by all means avoid death, they are like those, who at any hand resolve to be rich'. The case may happen, in which they will blaspheme, and dishonour Providence, or do a base action, or curse God and die: but, in all cases, they die miserable and ensnared, and in no case do they die the less for it. Nature hath left us the key of the churchyard, and custom hath brought cemeteries and charnel-houses into cities and churches, places most frequented, that we might not carry ourselves strangely in so certain, so expected, so ordinary, so unavoidable an accident. All reluctancy or unwillingness to obey the Divine decree is but a snare to ourselves, and a load to our spirits', and is either an entire cause, or a great aggravation, of the calamity. Who did not scorn to look upon Xerxes, when he caused three hundred stripes to be given to the sea, and sent a chartel of defiance against the mountain Athos? Who did not scorn the proud vanity of Cyrus, when he took so goodly a revenge upon the river Cyndus for his hard passage over it? or did not deride or pity the Thracians, for shooting arrows against heaven when it thunders? To be angry with God", to quarrel with the Divine providence, by repining against an unalterable, a natural, an easy sentence, is an argument of a huge folly, and the parent of a great trouble; a man is base and foolish to no purpose", he throws away a vice to his own misery, and to no advantages of ease and pleasure. Fear keeps men in bondage all their life, saith St. Paul; and patience makes him his own man, and lord of his own interest and person. Therefore possess yourselves in patience, with reason and religion, and you shall die with
If all the parts of this discourse be true, if they be better than dreams, and unless virtue be nothing but words, asa grove is a heap of trees; if they be not the fantasms of
ὁ ̓Αλλ ̓ οἱ ἐξ ἅπαντος φεύγοντες τὸν θάνατον.
Quam pellunt lacrymæ, fovent sortem: Dura negant cedere mollibus,
1 Siccas si leat genas, Duræ cedet hebes sors patientiæ.
m Νήπιοι, οἵ Ζηνὶ μενεαίνομεν ἀφρονέοντες.--Iliad. ό.
n Et cùm nihil imminuat dolores, cur frustrà turpes esse volumus?-Seneca.
• Non levat miseros dolor.
P Virtutem verba putas, ut lucum ligna.
hypochondriacal persons, and designs upon the interest of men and their persuasions to evil purposes; then there is no reason, but that we should really desire death, and account it among the good things of God, and the sour and laborious felicities of man. St. Paul understood it well, when he desired to be dissolved: he well enough knew his own advantages, and pursued them accordingly. But it is certain, that he, that is afraid of death, I mean, with a violent and transporting fear, with a fear apt to discompose his duty or his patience, that man either loves this world too much, or dares not trust God for the next.
General Rules and Exercises whereby our Sickness
1. TAKE care that the cause of thy sickness be such, as may not sour it in the principal and original causes of it. It is a sad calamity to pass into the house of mourning through the gates of intemperance, by a drunken meeting, or the surfeits of a loathed and luxurious table; for then a man suffers the pain of his own folly, and he is like a fool smarting under the whip, which his own viciousness twisted for his back; then a man pays the price of his sin, and hath a pure and an unmingled sorrow in his suffering; and it cannot be alleviated by any circumstances, for the whole affair is a mere process of death and sorrow. Sin is in the head, sickness is in the body, and death and an eternity of pains in the tail; and nothing can make this condition tolerable, unless the miracles of the Divine mercy will be pleased to exchange the eternal anger for the temporal. True it is, that, in all sufferings, the cause of it makes it noble or ignoble, honour or shame, tolerable or intolerable". For when patience is assaulted by a ruder violence, by a blow from heaven or earth, from a gracious God or an unjust man, patience looks forth to the doors, which way she may escape. And if innocence or a cause of religion keep the first entrance, then, whether
¶ Solatium est pro honesto dura toleraré, et ad causam patientiæ respicit.-1 Pet. ii. 19. Heb. xi. 36. Matt. v. 11. .
she escapes at the gates of life or death, there is a good to be received, greater than the evils of a sickness: but if sin thrust in that sickness, and that hell stands at the door, then patience turns into fury, and seeing it impossible to go forth with safety, rolls up and down with a circular and infinite revolution, makes its motion not from, but upon, its own centre; it doubles the pain, and increases the sorrow, till by its weight it breaks the spirit, and bursts into the agonies of infinite and eternal ages. If we had seen St. Polycarp burning to death, or St. Laurence roasted upon his gridiron, or St. Ignatius exposed to lions, or St. Sebastian pierced with arrows, or St. Attalus carried about the theatre with scorn unto his death for the cause of Jesus, for religion, for God and a holy conscience; we should have been in love with flames, and have thought the gridiron fairer than the sponda, the ribs of a marital bed; and we should have chosen to converse with those beasts, rather than those men, that' brought those beasts forth; and estimated the arrows to be the rays of light brighter than the moon; and that disgrace and mistaken pageantry were a solemnity richer and more magnificent than Mordecai's procession upon the king's horse, and in the robes of majesty: for so did these holy men account them; they kissed their stakes, and hugged their deaths, and ran violently to torments, and counted whippings and secular disgraces to be the enamel of their persons, and the ointment of their heads, and the embalming their names, and securing them for immortality. But to see Sejanus torn in pieces by the people, or Nero crying or creeping timorously to his death, when he was condemned to die more majorum; to see Judas pale and trembling, full of anguish, sorrow, and despair; to observe the groanings and intolerable agonies of Herod and Antiochus, will tell and demonstrate the causes of patience and impatience to proceed from the causes of the suffering: and it is sin only, that makes the cup bitter and deadly. When men, by vomiting, measure up the drink they took in3, and sick and sad do again taste their meat turned into choler by intemperance, the sin and its punishment are mingled so, that shame covers the face, and:
Magis his quæ patitur, vexat causa patiendi.
Hi quicquid biberint, vomitu remetientur tristes, et bilem suam regustantes. -Seneca.